Music is a valuable part of any well-rounded education. While many studies on music’s benefits focus on their association with higher SAT scores in college or student involvement in middle school, the perks of a music education can actually begin much earlier. Students in elementary school exhibit a broad range of benefits from access to an early music education. From math and science to reading and beyond, children perform better in nearly every area when there’s music in the school. Here is a list of some of the benefits of providing music education to elementary school students.
1. Priming students for a lifetime of learning. Music education helps students hone important skills that will make them better learners for the rest of their lives. Obtaining these skills early will help elementary students build a strong foundation for their future. The simple skill of attentiveness, which helps young students focus, listen, and stay on task, is better in those who receive early childhood training in instrumental music. Music students also exhibit greater perseverance, which helps them continue pushing forward with a difficult task, even in the face of adversity. The working memory, or the ability to retain and manipulate important information, is stronger in musicians. Those who practice music perform better at memory and recall tasks. Practicing music also improves abstract reasoning, which helps students apply their knowledge and visualize different solutions.
2. Coordinating multiple skill sets. Music educators encourage their students to call on multiple skill sets in each lesson. Students must maintain rhythm, listen to those around them, look at written music, and manipulate an instrument or their voice. This calls on their eyes, ears, and muscles all at once, teaching students how to integrate these skill sets.
3. Enhanced language development. Students who study music outperform those who don’t in a variety of language skills, and these gains only increase over time. Music students have been shown to be better at many skills, including writing, reading, proofreading, and using information resources. The parts of the brain that process music and develop language are closely linked, so advancements in one naturally benefit the other. Songs that incorporate the written word can also help enhance language by neatly tying the two together.
4. Increased mathematical skills. The parts of the brain that are used practice music are also used for processing math. Students involved in music will later do better in algebra, which is an important stepping stone for more complex mathematical studies. One study revealed that second graders given eight months of piano keyboard lessons and access to music software were then able to perform sixth-grade math on a standardized test.
5. Improved neural activity. The brain’s neural networks strengthen and grow as a result of music education. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School showed improved fine motor skills and sound discrimination in students who underwent 15 months of weekly music lessons. Brain images showed that the networks associated with these tasks were more developed in these students. Researchers at the University of Munster in Germany found that the brain is actually enlarged through music study. The part of the brain used to analyze pitch was 25% larger in musicians. The earlier students began their study of music, the larger this part of the brain appeared.
6. Improved behavior and participation. Music is often a group activity that teaches children how to work together to produce a piece of music, keeping the same rhythm and contributing their individual parts to make a whole that’s greater than any individual voice or instrument. Music teaches discipline and encourages better behavior in students. Schools with music programs also enjoy higher attendance. The National Association for Music Education revealed that the average attendance rate is 93.3% in schools with music programs, compared to just 84.9% in those without.
7. Boosting test scores. Students who study music at a young age may actually increase their IQ. A study was published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science which found a higher IQ in 6-year-olds who took weekly voice and piano lessons. IQ tests were administered before first grade and before second grade. Those who took music lessons averaged three IQ points higher than those in other groups. This translates to higher test scores on average.
Are you interested in promoting better music education programs for elementary school students? You can take an active role in providing a music education to these young learners. Begin with a Master of Music in music education degree, and learn how you can utilize an advanced education to enhance your impact on students.
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